We pay close attention to many aspects of our body — our skin, muscles, joints — yet, how often do you think about the health of your bones. Unfortunately, most of us don’t pay attention to the health of our skeletal structure until it’s in trouble with issues like osteoporosis. Yet, for those of us who search for bone-healthy foods, there isn’t a whole lot of information regarding plant-based foods. Here are the nutrients you want to make sure you’re getting along with recipes from the Food Monster App and supplements!

What Are Bones?

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It’s a common misconception that once you hit adulthood, and before you hit old age, your bones are done changing. This simply isn’t true. Bones are just like any other part of our bodies, living and growing all the time. Plus, did you know that there are multiple types of bones in your body? Two in fact. The first type is called cortical, referring to the outer layer of “dense and compact” bone. Trabecular, the second type of bone, “makes up the inner layer of the bone and has a spongy, honeycomb-like structure.”

Our bones need just as much attention as the rest of our body. Why is this? Over time, our bones gain and lose density. For example, “during childhood and the teenage years, new bone is added to the skeleton faster than old bone is removed,” which makes our bones larger, heavier, and denser. This growth “peaks during the third decade of life,” after which bone density decreases.

The health of your bones in your old age all depends on how strong they are during the first half of your life.

What’s in Our Bones?

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Bones are made from a mixture of collagen and calcium making then “strong and flexible enough to withstand stress.”

Collagen happens to be “the most abundant protein in your body,” playing a large role in the “connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles,” and strengthening your bones. While collagen provides a framework, calcium provides solid support. Calcium “is a chemical element that is essential for living organisms, including humans.” This essential chemical also happens to be “the most abundant mineral in the body,” with over 99 percent contained in bones and teeth and “remaining 1 percent” in the blood. A great way to look at the relationship between collagen and calcium is to think of your body as a structure where collagen “provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate … adds strength and hardens the framework.”

Bone Health, Osteoporosis, and the “Bone Bank”

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For most of us, when we think about our bones, we think about a naturally occurring skeletal structure that keeps us standing and walking upright. This is partially true … our bones are part of the picture that keeps us from puddling to the ground … yet, over time, our bones actually loose that density, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis.

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Per the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis — meaning porous bones — “is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.”

How do we avoid osteoporosis? It’s called the “bone bank.”

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As mentioned before, your bones are living and growing parts of your body, therefore they can either gain strength and health or lose it. This is where the “bone bank” comes in. Basically, it’s an easy way to manage the reality of either “depositing” — strengthening with vital nutrients — or “withdrawing”— losing strength from lack of nutrients — from bone tissue.

For strong bones in your old age, and to avoid osteoporosis, you need to provide your body and your bones with the necessary bone-strengthening nutrients and bone-healthy lifestyle — getting enough “calcium, vitamin D, and exercise and by avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use.”

Nutrients for Bone Health

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Want to boost bone health to reach your peak bone density? It’s all about a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. While some nutrients play a vital role, others are needed in incredibly small amounts. This is where balanced is key. Basically, fill your day with a variety of colorful and organic vegetables, fruits, and grains. With that said, there are a handful of nutrients that have been scientifically proven to help increase bone density. Here are a few of these bone-strengthening nutrients and where you can find them in a plant-based diet!

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Vitamin D

Ginger Kombucha Mimosa/One Green Planet

This versatile vitamin is not only important for bone health, but it’s an “important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection.” Most of the vitamin D in your body is generated from sunlight, while only a very small amount can be obtained via diet.

This sunlight-derived compound helps to “manage the amount of calcium in your blood, bones and gut and to help cells all over your body to communicate properly.” Therefore, vitamin D is an essential component in your bone’s ability to absorb calcium, which is a building block specifically targeting the strength and density of your bones.

In order to get your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin D on a plant-based diet — around 600 IU per day if you’re getting enough sunlight or 1,000 IU per day if you don’t get enough sunlight — you’ll need to focus on fortified foods. High amounts of vitamin D are found in many animal products including fish, cod liver oil, oysters, and shrimp, and egg yolks. The only plant-based source of vitamin D is mushrooms and they “produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.” Unfortunately, vitamin D2 “may not be as effective as vitamin D3,” in supplying the blood and bones with a sufficient supply.

Incorporating fortified foods into your plant-based diet is an essential component for bone health including fortified soy milk, — Homemade Soy Milk — orange juice, — Ginger Kombucha Mimosafortified cereal, and oatmeal  — Lemon Blueberry Oatcakes.

Calcium

Cheesy Kale Chips/One Green Planet

While vitamin D is important for the absorption and use of calcium, calcium is the compound that will increase that much-needed bone density. As mentioned previously, calcium is an essential strength-building component for dense bones. Yet, did you know that “every day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces?” On top of that, “our bodies cannot produce its own calcium,” which means you have to get it through diet.

Recommended daily intake of calcium depends on gender. For women under 51 years of age, it’s recommended to get at least 1,000 milligrams per day, while women over the age of 51 should aim for a bit higher intake of 1,200 milligrams per day. On the other hand, since men are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis, while the recommended daily intake is the same, the ages differ — 1,000 mg for men under the age of 71 and 1,200 mg for men over 71.

Luckily, there are a slew of plant-based foods that offer decent amounts of calcium to meet those recommended goals including seeds — poppy, celery, sesame, and chia, — beans, lentils, almonds, green leafy veggies — kale, spinach, and collard greens, —rhubarb, amaranth (a pseudocereal), edamame, tofu, figs. Plus, along with vitamin D, non-dairy plant-based milk — soy, almond, cashew, and coconut — are oftentimes fortified with calcium for those vegetarians and vegans.

Here are some great calcium-rich recipes: Cheesy Kale Chips, Beet and Spinach Swirl Bread, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie, or this Baked Marinated Tofu.

Magnesium

Quinoa Salad with Turmeric Tahini Dressing/One Green Planet

Magnesium is quickly becoming one of those miracle minerals that seems to aid in a slew health issues such as fighting depression and type 2 diabetes, lowering blood pressure, preventing migraines, reducing insulin resistance, and improving PMS symptoms. Along with these benefits, magnesium also “allows for proper calcium and vitamin D regulation.”

It’s all connected! In order to get the most benefit from one of these bone-strengthening compounds, you need all the others. Once again, I repeat, a balanced diet is essential!

Magnesium also happens to be one of the easiest minerals to incorporate into a plant-based diet. Many plant-based staples have small to large quantities of this essential mineral. A few of the top sources include pumpkin seeds, spinach and swiss chard, — Swiss Chard with Onions, Currants, and Pine Nuts — dark chocolate, beans (specifically black beans) and quinoa — Black Bean, Quinoa, and Walnut Bread — nuts (specifically almonds and cashews), — Pumpkin Cashew Cheesecake with Coconut Whipped Cream — and avocado — Raw Brownies with Avocado Frosting.

Bone-Strengthening Supplements

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Some of the most difficult nutrients to get in large supply on a plant-based diet are bone-strengthening vitamins and minerals. In order to make sure you’re getting the enough to keep your bones in good health, it’s a good idea to incorporate a supplement. As with all supplements, it’s important to seek out organic, non-GMO, and vegan or vegetarian options.

BioGanix Vitamin D3 Liquid Supplement

BioGanix Vitamin D3 5000 IU Liquid Supplement/Amazon.com

In our nutrients section, I mentioned that, while you can get vitamin D2 from mushrooms, it’s incredibly difficult to get effective amounts or vitamin D3 from plant-based sources. This is where integrating a supplement into your plant-based diet is helpful. This BioGanix Vitamin D3 5000 IU Liquid Supplement is a great option! It’s non-GMO, 100 percent natural ingredients, and vegan for only $13.27.

New Chapter Calcium Supplement with Vitamin K2 + D3

New Chapter Calcium Supplement with Vitamin K2 + D3/Amazon.com

When it comes to getting that essential calcium, this New Chapter Calcium Supplement with Vitamin K2 + D3 combination is aimed to boost your body’s ability to absorb calcium into your blood and bones. Along with vitamin D3, vitamin K2 plays an important role in the metabolism of calcium. This supplement is also non-GMO, 100 percent vegetarian, gluten-free, and is sustainably harvested.

NATURELO Bone Strength

NATURELO Bone Strength/Amazon.com

If you’re looking for the “whole package” supplement this one takes the cake! NATURELO is known for offering pure supplements meaning they are non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, nut-free, caffeine-free, plus they don’t contain any coloring, preservatives, or flavoring. These supplements are pretty much good for anyone! This NATURELO Bone Strength supplement is a bone-strengthening combination of calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and magnesium!

Looking to use your new found bone-strengthening knowledge in the kitchen? We highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

For more Vegan Food, Health, Recipe, Animal, and Life content published daily, don’t forget to subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter!

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